Sep. 23—For Lodi High, tonight's football game offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity — the Flames have a shot at finishing the preseason with a 5-0 record.
The last time Lodi finished with a 5-0 preseason was in 2007, when the Flames were still in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
Now, Lodi's matchup against Gregori out of Modesto is a final tuneup for Tri-City Athletic League play.
"They play decent defensively — they're a three-stack team. They have some guys that can run around on the offense, and they like to throw the ball. Another spread team," said Lodi coach George Duenas. "We're going to need dour defensive line and outside backers. If we're able to protect against the run with only four or five guys, it gives our DBs some extra guys to help out."
Lodi is coming off its by week, and has spent much of the past two weeks working on timing.
"We're still working on our timing for our run game, and we're trying to work on our timing for the pass game," Duenas said. "We haven't really had to pass, but we're going to come up on a stretch where we're going the have to throw the ball downfield."
Will that happen with Gregori? Duenas thinks so. He expects the Jaguars to sell out to stop the run.
"Everyone's going to try to stop our run game. I think that's everyone's idea to stop Lodi," Duenas said. "We know they'll give us their biggest shot, so our job is just to make sure we can sustain the run game."
Gregori is 1-3, and is coming off a 27-6 shellacking at the hands of Livermore.
Lodi, meanwhile, is at full strength, with running back Maceo McDowell back to 100% from a pulled hamstring that limited him early in the season.
"I think we're feeling good," Duenas said. "We had a great bye week, we're healthy, and the guys are working hard. I think they're going to be excited to finally be home."
While that game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at the Grape Bowl, an hour later Tokay will kick off in another one-of-a-kind experience when the Tigers host Emmett High out of Idaho. Both teams had games canceled, with a scheduling mixup cratering Emmett's original plan for tonight, and Tokay filling its bye week after a game at West Park in Roseville was canceled two weeks ago due to wildfire smoke.
It's a little more than a 9-hour drive from Emmett, Id., just north of Boise.
"They're pretty excited about it. We get to play, when we go to camp, other teams from other states, and this year there was a team from Idaho, and I think our kids really liked those kids from Kimberly, Idaho," said Tokay coach Collin Rhoads. "I know this team's going to come off the bus, and they're going to come hit us in the mouth. So they'll get to test their toughness against some Big Sky toughness."
Rhoads said the teams exchanged game film before the game was finalized, to judge if the teams matched up well. Despite Tokay's 2,100 enrollment to Emmett's 700, the teams expect to play a competitive game.
"They run a lot of RPOs, run-pass options, and they're pretty balanced run and pass, they do different formations on offense that we have to prepare for. Good little QB, probably one of the better guys on the team," Rhoads said. "Line-wise I think we're a little bigger. I think it's going to be a good game. A good opportunity to play against a tough team that will get us ready for Tracy, Lodi, those kinds of run-heavy teams."
Emmett is coming off of a 34-24 win over Skyview High in Nampa, Id. in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference opener. Quarterback Dakota Perry threw for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns, while running back Ry Fullerton ran 23 times for 138 yards and a score.
Tokay's quarterback situation changed suddenly in last week's 33-6 loss to Liberty Ranch when sophomore starter Timmy Karagounis went down with a torn ACL. Rhoads said Karagounis is scheduled for surgery, and will be back for camp before next season.
"He was going to do track, but this will limit him," Rhoads said. "But he's the kind of kid who will work out and get his knee healthy, and do all the right things to get back."
In his absence, running back Zack Filippini has taken over the starting role. The senior shared time under center with Branden Moreno last year, and Rhoads said the team captain hasn't lost a step in returning to the role.
Tokay is also missing center Vince Marin, who tore his ACL in a win over Kennedy on Sept. 2. But the good news for the Tigers is that 16 players return tonight from suspension for leaving the sideline during a Week-1 brawl in a win over Chavez. Three players are still suspended for one more game, and will return for next week's league opener against West.
"We would have loved to have them back last week, but we're excited, and they're excited," Rhoads said. "We've had a really good, energized week of practice."
Up in Galt, Liberty Ranch (5-0) has its bye week this week before getting into Sierra Valley Conference play next week against El Dorado.
Galt High (2-2) will host a winless Calaveras squad tonight at Warriors Stadium, with both looking to get a win in before heading to their respective leagues.
Galt is on a two-game losing streak, with its last win on Aug. 26 against Highlands, while hasn't been closer than two touchdowns in each of its four losses.
Galt quarterback Cole Erman has accounted for most of the numbers on offense, with 50-of-88 passing for 6-1 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus 281 yards and 4 scores on the ground.